Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Being Forced to Marry

Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.

It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.

Conflict: Being Forced to Marry

Category: Power struggles, increased pressure and ticking clocks, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, losing an advantage, loss of control

An arranged marriage where one or both parties do not consent
A strategic match (for pedigree, wealth, power, politics)
Because of an unplanned pregnancy
For protection
Under threat of violence (often in a conflict zone, being captured, kidnapped, trafficked, etc.)
At the direction of religious leaders
At the direction of a ruler or community leader

Minor Complications:
In a situation like this, there really are no minor complications, but there are immediate complications and then ongoing or escalated complications. Immediate ones might be:
Having to move
Having to give up certain interests, past times, and recreational activities
Having to leave home or one’s comfort zone
Being forced to sever relationships (either through distance, pressure to no longer be in touch with certain people, or under threat of violence)
Losing the freedom to make independent choices
Having to let go of other people they might have been attracted to or romantically interested in
Having to hide their true feelings
Being forced to embrace new responsibilities they may not be prepared for
Having to let go of other people they were romantically interested in
Having to hide their true feelings

Potentially Disastrous Results:
Being forced to embrace a new way of life, new beliefs, or religious practices
Living in fear of what is to come (due to a lack of control, a violence spouse, civil unrest, sexual expectations, new obligations and expectations, being in the public eye, etc.)
Depression at the direction their life has taken (especially over what was lost)
Being placed in harm’s way (due to new associations, family vendettas, etc)
Being forced to bear children
Being a witness to violence
Domestic violence, torture, slavery or other forms of abuse
Being trapped in a loveless marriage
Being trapped in a relationship with a partner who is not faithful

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Being torn between what they want for themselves and what family members want or need (duty)
Choosing the good of the many over the good of the few when it means personal sacrifice
Having no good options
Struggling with uncertainty and not knowing if they made a mistake or not
Losing the battle with optimism and hope
Wondering if the sacrifice was worth it (but being cut off from those they were trying to protect, and so being unable to check in on their welfare)
Looking toward the future (or events such as the birth of a child) with trepidation but also hope
Having to cross moral lines not by choice
Wanting to run away but being responsible to people in this new life (children, others in one’s group)
Trying to safeguard loved ones (children, friends, others who have been taken) but having not power to do so
Grief over what was lost yet relief at certain things gained (safety, security, financial certainty)
Resentment toward family or others who pressured them into this fate
Being happy for others who can choose their path but also jealous and bitter as well

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected:
Family and loved ones who are in danger if the character doesn’t comply, people they are responsible for (a community, a country, a group), innocent people caught in the crossfire, people who stand against the decision (and against their new family)

Resulting Emotions: anger, anguish, anxiety, apprehension, betrayed, bitterness, conflicted, defeat, defiant, depressed, despair, desperation, determination, devastation, disappointment, disillusionment, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, envy, fear, frustration, grief, guilt, hatred, homesick, hopefulness, humiliation, insecurity, intimidated, jealousy, loneliness, longing, overwhelmed, powerlessness, regret, relief, resentment, resignation, self-loathing, self-pity, shame, tormented, uncertainty, vulnerability, wanderlust, wistful

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: addictive, confrontational, disloyal, disrespectful, irresponsible, jealous, martyr, needy, prejudiced, pretentious, promiscuous, rebellious, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, uncommunicative, vindictive, violent, volatile, weak-willed

Positive Outcomes: 
Discovering a new purpose within a tough situation
Discovering one is resilient
Building new friendships and community in the new situation that they may never have otherwise known
Learning to embrace the situation and discovering love (possible in some situations if violence and safety is not an issue)
Being able to safeguard loved ones because of who they married (rescuing them from harm, giving them immunity, etc.)
Escaping danger, poverty, violence
Gaining new opportunities due to access to better education, opportunities, and having a stronger financial standing than before
Gaining power and prestige because of a family name and using it to give back or make life better for others

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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Ruchama Burrell
Ruchama Burrell
11 months ago

What if the hero finally overcomes the pressure to marry and in order to marry someone else and that is the HEA? Any suggestions about the process?

Barbara Parker
11 months ago

Good article. Thanks